Monthly Archives: February 2023

Understanding AI

Even though we see lots of articles about AI, few of us really have even a vague idea of how it works. It is super complicated, but that doesn’t mean we can’t explain it in simple terms.

I don’t work in AI, but I did work as a Computational Scientist back in the early 1980’s. Back then I became aware of fledgling neural network software and pioneered its applications in formulation chemistry. While neural network technology was extremely crude at that time, I proclaimed to everyone that it was the future. And today, neural networks are the beating heart of AI which is fast becoming our future.

To get a sense of how neural networks are created and used, consider a very simple example from my work. I took examples of paint formulations, essentially the recipes for different paints, as well as the paint properties each produced, like hardness and curing time. Every recipe and its resulting properties was a training fact and all of them together was my training set. I fed my training set into software to produce a neural network, essentially a continuous map of this landscape. This map could take quite a while to create, but once the neural network was complete I could then enter a new proposed recipe and it could instantly tell me the expected properties. Conversely, I could enter a desired set of properties and it could instantly predict a recipe to achieve them.

So imagine adapting and expanding that basic approach. Imagine, for example, that rather than using paint formulations as training facts, you gathered training facts from a question/answer site like Quora, or a simple FAQ. You first parse each question and answer text into keywords that become your inputs and outputs. Once trained, the AI can then answer most any question, even previously unseen variations, that lie upon the map that it has created.

Next imagine you had the computing power to scan the entire Internet and parse all that information down into sets of input and output keywords, and that you had the computing power to build a huge neural network based on all those training facts. You would then have a knowledge map of the Internet, not too unlike Google Maps for physical terrain. That map could then be used to instantly predict what folks might say in response to anything folks might say – based on what folks have said on the Internet.

You don’t need to just imagine, because now we can do essentially that.

Still, to become an AI, a trained neural network alone is not enough. It first needs to understand your written or spoken language question, parse it, and select input keywords. For that it needs a bunch of skills like voice recognition and language parsing. After finding likely output keywords, it must order them sensibly and build a natural language text or video presentation of the outputs. For that you need text generators, predictive algorithms, spelling and grammar engines, and many more processors to produce an intelligible, natural sounding response. Most of these various technologies have been refined for a long time in your word processor or your messaging applications. AI is really therefore a convergence of many well-known technologies that we have built and refined since at least the 1980’s.

AI is extremely complex and massive in scale, but unlike quantum physics, quite understandable in concept. What has enabled the construction of AI scale neural networks is the mind-boggling computer power required to train such a huge network. When I trained my tiny neural networks in the 1980’s it took hours. Now we can parse and train a network on well, the entire Internet.

OK, so hopefully that demystifies AI somewhat. It basically pulls a set of training facts from the Internet, parses them and builds a network based on that data. When queried, it uses that trained network map to output keywords and applies various algorithms to build those keywords into comprehensible, natural sounding output.

It’s important we understand at least that much about how AI works so that we can begin to appreciate and address the much tougher questions, limitations, opportunities, and challenges of AI.

Most importantly, garbage in, garbage out still applies here. Our goal is for AI should be to do better than we humans can do, to be smarter than us. After all, we already have an advanced neural network inside our skulls that has been trained over a lifetime of experiences. The problem is, we have a lot of junk information that compromises our thinking. But if an AI just sweeps in everything on the Internet, garbage and all, doesn’t that make it just an even more compromised and psychotic version of us?

We can only rely upon AI if it is trained on vetted facts. For example, AI could be limited to training facts from Wikipedia, scientific journals, actual raw data, and vetted sources of known accurate information. Such a neural network would almost certainly be vastly superior to humans in producing accurate and nuanced answers to questions that are too difficult for humans to understand given our more limited information and fallibilities. There is a reason that there are no organic doctors in the Star Wars universe. It is because there is no advanced future civilization where organic creatures could compete the AI medical intelligence and surgical dexterity of droids.

Here’s a problem. We don’t really want that kind of boring, practical AI. Such specialized systems will be important, but not huge commercially nor sociologically impactful. Rather, we are both allured and terrified by AI that can write poetry or hit songs, generate romance or horror novels, interpret the news, and draw us images of cute dragon/butterfly hybrids.

The problem is, that kind of popular “human like” AI, not bound by reality or truth, would be incredibly powerful in spreading misinformation and manipulating our emotions. It would feedback nonsense that would further instill and reinforce nonsensical and even dangerous thinking in our own brain-based neural networks.

AI can help mankind to overcome our limitations and make us better. Or it can dramatically magnify our flaws. It can push us toward fact-based information, or it can become QANON and Fox “News” on steroids. Both are equally feasible, but if Facebook algorithms are any indication, the latter is far more probable. I’m not worried about AI creating killer robots to exterminate mankind, but I am deeply terrified by AI pushing us further toward irrationality.

To create socially responsible AI, there are two things we must do above all else. First, we must train specialized AI systems, say as doctors, with only valid, factual information germane to medical treatment. Second, any more generative, creative, AI networks should be built from the ground up to distinguish factual information from fantasy. We must be able to indicate how realistic we wish our responses to be and the system must flag clearly, in a non-fungible manner, how factual its creations actually are. We must be able to count on AI to give us the truth as best as computer algorithms can recognize it, not merely to make up stories or regurgitate nonsense.

Garbage in garbage out is a huge issue, but we also face a an impending identity crisis brought about by AI, and I’m not talking about people falling in love with their smart phone.

Even after hundreds of years to come to terms with evolution, the very notion still threatens many people with regard to our relationship with animals. Many are still offended by the implication that they are little more than chimpanzees. AI is likely to cause the same sort of profound challenge to our deeply personal sense of what it means to be human.

We can already see that AI has blown way past the Turing Test and can appear indistinguishable from a human being. Even while not truly self-aware, AI systems can seem to be capable of feelings and emotion. If AI thinks and speaks like a human being in every way, then what is the difference? What does it even mean to be human if all the ways we distinguish ourselves from animals can be reproduced by computer algorithms?

The neural network in our brain works effectively like a computer neural network. When we hear “I love…” our brains might complete that sentence with “you.” That’s exactly what a computer neural network might do. Instead of worrying about whether AI systems are sentient, the more subtle impact will be to make us start fretting about whether we are merely machines ourselves. This may cause tremendous backlash.

We might alleviate that insecurity by rationalizing that AI is not real by definition because it is not human. But that doesn’t hold up well. It’s like claiming that manufactured Vitamin C is not really Vitamin C because it did not some from an orange.

So how do we come to terms with the increasingly undeniable fact that intellectually and emotionally we are essentially just biological machines? The same way many of us came to terms with the fact that we are animals. By acknowledging and embracing it.

When it comes to evolution, I’ve always said that we should take pride in being animals. We should learn about ourselves through them. Similarly, we should see computer intelligence as an opportunity, not a threat to our sense of exceptionalism. AI can help us to be better machines by offering a laboratory for insight and experimentation that can help both human and AI intelligences to do better.

Our brain-based neural networks are trained on the same garbage data as AI. The obvious flaws in AI are the same less obvious flaws that affect our own thinking. Seeing the flaws in AI can help us to recognize similar flaws in ourselves. Finding ways to correct the flaws in AI can help us to find similar training methodologies to correct them in ourselves.

I’m an animal and I’m proud to be “just an animal” and I’m equally proud to be “just a biological neural network.” That’s pretty awesome!

Let’s just hope we can create AI systems that are not as flawed as we are. Let’s hope that they will instead provide sound inputs to serve as good training facts to help retrain our own biological neural networks to think in more rational and fact-based ways.

Pandemic of Delusion

You may have heard that March Madness is upon us. But never fear, March Sanity is on the way!

My new book, Pandemic of Delusion, will be released on March 23rd, 2023 and it’s not arriving a moment too early. The challenges we face both individually and as a society in distinguishing fact from fiction, rationality from delusion, are more powerful and pervasive than ever and the need for deeper insight and understanding to navigate those challenges has never been more dire and profound.

Ensuring sane and rational decision making, both as individuals and as a society, requires that we fully understand our cognitive limitations and vulnerabilities. Pandemic of Delusion helps us to appreciate how we perceive and process information so that we can better recognize and correct our thinking when it starts to drift away from a firm foundation of verified facts and sound logic.

Pandemic of Delusion covers a lot of ground. It delves deeply into a wide range of topics related to facts and belief, but it’s as easy to read as falling off a log. It is frank, informal, and sometimes irreverent. Most importantly, while it starts by helping us understand the challenges we face, it goes on to offer practical insights and methods to keep our brains healthy. Finally, it ends on an inspirational note that will leave you with an almost spiritual appreciation of a worldview based upon science, facts, and reason.

If only to prove that you can still consume more than 200 characters at a time, preorder Pandemic of Delusion from the publisher, Interlink Publishing, or from your favorite bookseller like Amazon. And after you read it two or three times, you can promote fact-based thinking by placing it ever so casually on the bookshelf behind your video desk. It has a really stand-out binding. And don’t just order one. Do your part to make the world a more rational place by sending copies to all your friends, family, and associates.

Seriously, I hope you enjoy reading Pandemic of Delusion half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Our Gun Control Advocates are Failing Us

Excuse me sir, might I have some sensible
gun control please?

I am not a gun control advocate.

I am a gun abolishment activist.

Of course, I’m aware that would be a considered foolish position by the vast majority of people who are horrified by gun violence and truly want to make meaningful change to curb the carnage. We cannot abolish guns. That kind of extremist talk is not only unrealistic but it threatens to undermine the hope of implementing the sensible, meaningful gun reforms that serious gun control advocates have struggled so long to enact.

But that’s just it. We have been chasing “sensible gun reform” for many decades and we have been getting nowhere. In all the time that we have been meekly begging for reasonable gun control measures, the gun epidemic has only intensified in severity and scope. For every marginal success, there have been far more numerous losses. It is no longer realistic to counsel patience. We need to face reality. And the reality is that what we have been doing, the consensus measures that our advocates continue to call for, have not worked, are not working, and are not going to work.

After every mass shooting their meme used to be “thoughts and prayers.” Now the new meme is “thoughts and prayers are not good enough.” But like the one before it, this new rallying cry is just another empty, mollifying platitude that may appear to be a strong call to action but is in reality just another impotent lament.

Banal platitudes like this are the typical drum beat of our most ardent and well-intentioned gun control advocates. David Hogg and Fred Guttenberg are just two examples. I mention them not to disparage them but only to provide two examples of passionate, dedicated, and well-meaning gun control leaders who are failing us. Their milksop calls for “sensible gun legislation” are not fresh and new. These are the same old same old we have been hearing as long as there has been a gun debate.

Their calls for incremental reforms only help convince a bullet-riddled population that they cannot realistically hope for any more than the most bromide of relief from gun violence. In fact, the NRA would do well to fund our gun control advocates as they serve the gun industry by offering placating calls for ineffective half-measures, measures that, even if enacted, would do little to nothing to address the real problem — guns in our population.

Almost every supposed activist gun control advocate appearing in the media goes to great pains to preface every comment with assurances that they are gun owners themselves, that they hunt, and that they ardently support the 2nd amendment. They feel it is crucial that we know first and foremost that they are not trying to take away anyone’s gun. They go to great lengths to reassure pro-gun viewers that they are only advocating for a few modest, sensible gun reforms. Perhaps the very anodyne tone of their activism is what makes them attractive to controversy-shy media outlets fearful of being called too radical.

Given the lengths to which gun control activists go in their efforts to praise guns and gun ownership, it is sometimes difficult to see what side they are on. They seem to spend more time legitimizing and validating an inviolate right to gun ownership than they do condemning the key enabler of gun violence, namely guns.

The sensible, modest calls to action from our gun control advocates are simply inadequate to the urgency of the gun problem we face. The truth of this seems blatantly evident but yet we are continually assured and largely convinced that modest reforms are the most we can hope to achieve. I for one refuse to believe that we cannot do far, far better. And do far, far better we must.

One might think that our failure to institutionalize even the most modest gun control measures proves that we cannot reasonably hope to achieve more. There is some logic to the view that if one demands too much one will get nothing. But in this case that has proven to be failed logic. It is also true that sometimes, when pushing against a deeply rooted barrier with a lot of inertia, that no modest pressure, however persistent, will ever cause it to budge significantly. Only by the exertion of tremendous force can one hope to break it free and gain any momentum. Clearly no number of mass shootings alone will ever break the iron will of gun enthusiasts and profiteers.

We need to finally understand that only by exerting extreme pressure against the gun industry and our gun culture can we hope to make any lasting gain whatsoever. We should learn from anti-abortion activists and adapt some of their strategies that have proven to be highly successful. I know, I know, we aren’t like them and don’t want to be like them. But at some point, you have to either play rough, get tough, and do whatever it takes… or get out of the way.

Our nation may be overcome by a mass gun obsession, but the solution is not to enable it. The only way to snap us out of it is to set far more ambitious gun sanity goals than those long sought by mainstream gun control advocates. And it is feasible to achieve them. It is possible to change hearts and minds, change cultures, and change economic risk reward balances dramatically and quickly.

Here is just a short list of some of the kind of things we could and should be doing if we want to accomplish more than merely wringing our hands and effectively accepting a permanent culture of gun violence in America and an endless recurring nightmare of gun violence.

Admit the truth. Gun control measures will not fix the gun violence problem.
Often in life when leaders don’t know what to do, or can’t do what they know they should, they advocate for inconsequential half-measures. They know these will have negligible effect, but it makes everyone feel better to see <something> being done even though they all know that these remedies will do little good. This is the case with our modest gun reform demands. Everyone knows that they won’t significantly curb the problem of mass shootings, but we all go through the motions nonetheless. It gives us some hope of improvement, however false, until the next mass shooting.

Focus on guns as the problem.
Every time we get diverted into talking about mental health, about training, about background checks, or about gun locks we are not talking about the singular overriding cause of our gun problem, namely guns and the gun industry. Guns can effectively turn anyone into real live superpowered villain, and as long as we have guns, people will be lured into using them to commit mass murder. No amount of “sensible gun regulations” will curb that significantly. Engaging in debates over “sensible gun regulations” distracts and misdirects our focus away from the key problems; guns, guns, and guns. We need to stay laser focused and redirect every attempt to deflect back to the problem of guns.

Break free from internalized low expectations.
I am going to put extra emphasis on this point because it is so critically important. Gun interests have succeeded fantastically in conditioning their opponents to believe, and take as an immutable given, that there is no hope that America might ever abandon its love affair with guns. It is an intractable reality, or so they have made us believe, that guns are here to stay and we cannot hope for anything more than some few “sensible gun regulations.”

But this is a lie. We have seen over and over again how broad public sentiment can change, and change profoundly, almost overnight on what seems like the most strongly felt issues. Broad public sentiment can turn against our gun culture overnight. And severe restrictions and liability can cause even the most sociopathic gun owner to recalculate their cost/benefit.

Gun supporters know that their gun culture is fragile. Why do you suppose they fight so rabidly to defend it? Why is it we have such trouble believing what our opponents prove to us every day by their fearful, paranoid defense of guns?

Stop legitimizing gun ownership and excusing gun owners.
Stop legitimizing guns by going on about how much you support gun rights and assuring gun owners that they are great, responsible, people who happen to love guns and have every right to own them. We should instead marginalize gun ownership and gun owners as socially irresponsible collaborators in gun violence.

Frame gun ownership as moral choice.
We should frame gun ownership as an irresponsible, unethical, and immoral choice. Because it is. We should force Christians in particular to justify over and over again how their faith places their right of gun ownership over the life of even one child slain in a mass shooting. Similarly, we need to send the message to men that guns are evidence not of their manliness, but of their cowardice.

Emphasize that we do not have to exercise every right.
Just because we currently have a right to bear arms does not mean that we are obligated to do so. We need to send the message that even if one has an uppercase Right to do something, that does not mean it is lowercase right to do so. When it comes to guns, a good person would moderate their selfish individual rights for the good of society. In fact, the noblest definition of morality may be our willingness to forego our individual rights for the good of our fellow man. We need to make that argument and hammer it home relentlessly.

Stop accepting rationalizations.
We accept too easily what are often fake rationalizations that we legitimately need guns for hunting, or for recreational target shooting, or to expand our collection, to wage war against our government, or for personal protection. We should stop giving these excuses more weight than they deserve. To whatever extent there is a legitimate, justifiable need for a gun, the appropriate gun can be signed out from a well-regulated gun repository. Private guns can be held in the custody of an approved and monitored facility for check-out as needed for recreation or other purposes. If we can rent snow skis when we want to go skiing, we can check out a gun to go deer hunting.

Marginalize and denormalize gun ownership.
We should stop being so reluctant to blame and shame gun owners, manufacturers, sellers, and apologists. Every gun owner is part of the problem and we should stop pretending that there are any “good” gun owners out there. Further, we should stop participating in the fiction that whoever commits gun violence is a special mental case. The reality is that guns turn otherwise normal people into gun maniacs. The desire to purchase a gun that is only useful for killing lots of people quickly should be a sufficient red flag to alert us to a potentially dangerous and unstable person.

Make extreme demands.
Abortion activists didn’t gain ground by calling for “sensible abortion reform.” They demanded nothing less than the end of all abortions, period. They didn’t bemoan the fact that they might seem unreasonable or generate blowback. They welcomed blowback. We should do the same. We should stop calling for “sensible gun reform” and start demanding the abolishment of all private gun ownership in our society. We should make gun proponents feel lucky to walk away with only somewhat less Draconian reforms.

Stop accepting that the 2nd Amendment is the last word.
Anti-abortion activists never accepted that Roe v Wade was the last word. True, it was not a Constitutional Amendment, however it was “settled law.” But not for their activists. Similarly, the 2nd Amendment should not be accepted as sacrosanct by anti-gun activists. Maybe we cannot repeal it, but we can try. At the very least that effort would force their side to divert resources and offer substantive arguments to defend an archaic interpretation of the 2nd Amendment in a modern world replete with 21st century weaponry.

Reinterpret the 2nd Amendment.
While we work to repeal the 2nd Amendment, we should work to limit it. Again, anti-abortion activists have pioneered a wide array of effective strategies that we can adapt. Foremost, we should embark upon a decades-long mission to appoint anti-gun Supreme Court Justices with the courage and conviction to reinterpret the 2nd Amendment. Contrary to what we have come to accept, the 2nd Amendment is neither unambiguous nor absolute. It is open to broad interpretation and less ideological Justices could legitimately overturn previous precedents as overly broad interpretations of the 2nd Amendment and conscribe gun rights in a far more socially responsible manner. We should not accept any ruling as the final word until they do.

Make it as hard to open a gun shop as it is to open an abortion clinic.
The next thing we should be doing to lessen the damage of the 2nd Amendment is to limit its application in the real world. Again, anti-Abortion activists have given us the model for aggressive activism. Anti-abortion activists targeted abortion clinics very successfully. We should use those same proven successful tactics against gun factories, gun shows, and gun shops. Appear at every city council meeting in large and vocal numbers and lobby for new zoning restrictions and multitudinous regulations to make it difficult to open or operate these businesses. There are a million bills we could get passed to make their life difficult. “Of course, you can open a gun store, we are not stopping you, but you now need walls and windows that can stop high speed armor piercing ammunition. It’s a safety issue to protect gun buyers.”

Push for laws to effectively reduce guns by restricting firearms everywhere.
In addition to lobbying for laws to make it difficult to run gun-related businesses, make it difficult for gun owners to take their gun anywhere. Establish gun-free zones and other requirements that make it impractical to carry guns. When these new laws or private sector policies are challenged, defend them vigorously. When they are blocked or overturned by courts, modify them slightly and try again. The anti-abortionists didn’t let such setbacks dissuade them from their unrelenting efforts. Even if a hundred initiatives are struck down, some will get through and in the meantime the gun lobby will have spent limited resources to defend against them.

Pressure individual gun sellers and gun manufacturers.
We should put every bit of pressure we can bring to bear upon the individual people supporting gun manufacturing, sales, and ownership. Picket, boycott, protest, publicize, shame, and even harass them to a point. We should make their every activity in support of guns an ordeal. Like anti-abortionists, we should set up cordons in front of gun stores, showing prospective customers graphic pictures of gun-torn bodies and asking them how they can contribute to this carnage by buying a gun. Remind them that this is more likely to be the fate of them or their loved ones if they keep a gun in the house. We should confront store owners and ask them how they can live with themselves for selling tools of murder. We should confront gun executives and employees in restaurants and ask them how they can work for an industry that profits from death. Expand and escalate counter-protests at every pro-gun event.

Be willing to show graphic gun violence.
Television and movies, no matter how graphic, do not do justice to the real horrors of gun violence. We need to be less squeamish about confronting people with that horror, through both words and images. For many on both sides, a personal, visceral experience is all that will move them to action or cause them to really consider the harm that guns cause.

Push for laws to increase liability and lawsuits.
We need to stop taking “the gun industry is protected from lawsuits” as an insurmountable barrier. We need to renew our efforts to overturn such protections and, in the meantime, bring legal action, finding creative cause to challenge and test every possible variation in court. At the same time, we need to use each of these opportunities to make our case to the court of public opinion.

Wage Performative Protests
Follow the model of The Satantic Temple in pushing back against religious extremism and hold performative events to make gun rights supporters uncomfortable with their own policies and behaviors. Give them a taste of how they would feel if the “wrong” people in their view brandished guns. Establish groups like Blacks for Gun Freedom, Gays for Gun Rights, and Machine Gun Moms for Choice and flood gun open carry zones and Hobby Lobby with people in paramilitary gear brandishing guns. Imagine a huge presence of Drag Queens for Guns Everywhere at CPAC or a force of mock Muslim Fighters raising up fake AK-47s and shouting “2nd Amendment! 2nd Amendment!” at gun rallies. Of course this must be very well organized and obvious toy weapons are enough to make the point. But the Satanic temple has shown how this kind of smart performance pushback can be very effective to force the other side to reconsider whether they really want everyone <else> to exercise the rights they are advocating.

So, there are just a few ideas.

If you feel that these sorts of tactics are too distasteful for you, then what <are> you willing to do to save the lives of your loved ones from gun violence? If they die in a mass shooting at school, or at the grocery store, or at some public venue, will your conscience be at ease knowing that you called for commonsense gun reform?

While it is sometimes true that the ends don’t justify the means, in the real world the ends absolutely do justify the means in most cases. Every time we make a tough decision, every time we risk ourselves to save a life, or prevent a crime, or accomplish any noble goal, it is precisely because the ends do justify the means.

Certainly, the end of reducing gun violence does not justify any means. But it does justify, no it demands, far stronger means than we as a nation have enacted so far. Let’s rise to the challenge that we face and take bolder, stronger action against the plague of guns in our country.

If this article motivates you to want to do more than merely donate more money to institutionalized gun control advocates, you can start by reposting it on other media platforms!

But What Would We Do Without Religion?

As an author who focuses primarily on science, fact-based thinking, and atheism, I find that many of my conversations end up stuck in religion. Even those who share a clear and open-eyed view of the completely delusional belief pattern of religion, as well as the real social harm that it causes, still end up at stuck at “yea, but we need religion.”

Their suggestion is that, despite the obvious insanity of it, we’re stuck with religion. After all, some people clearly just need religion to better cope with life. They need the support that religion provides, whether real or fantasy. Implicit in this acceptance is the assumption that there is and can be no secular alternative. We have become co-dependent upon our mass delusions.

To those folks I say, look, we’d be completely fine without religion. In fact, if a miracle actually happened and religion disappeared from the planet, it would be quickly replaced with far more healthy fact-based alternatives. The disappearance of religion would open the space at least for rational secular alternatives to blossom and grow to fill any sane, legitimate need. All the money going to churches would be available to them to grow and flourish.

We have plenty of secular support systems already. We have an arguably helpful and supportive secular government, charities, clubs and associations of all sorts, NGO and volunteer organizations, and familial and interpersonal relationships. If religion were to disappear, I am fully confident that there are plenty of fact-based support and comfort systems that would expand and blossom to provide socially healthy alternatives to provide any legitimate benefits that religion may offer.

You know, we are always irrationally fearful of losing anything we have, even when it is harmful to us. Yes, cigarettes are killing us but don’t you dare take them away! Perhaps gas stoves are no longer needed and are giving our kids asthma, but you can pry my gas stove from my dead burnt fingers!

Moreover, we have a tendency to put too much emphasis on what little good someone or something offers while minimizing all the negatives. At one company we had a true bad apple named Tanya. Tanya did virtually no work and spent all her time proudly fomenting dissent. Yet when I asked my boss why he didn’t fire her he said “well if I did who would do the little bit of work she does?”

Finally, we have another tendency to think of things we rely upon as indispensable, irreplaceable. I am a fan of Amazon, but many folks think it is terrible. Yet, most would not wish to do away with Amazon because, after all, we depend on it too much. Like it or not, they would say, we need it.

But I think it is safe for me to assert that you’d be just fine without your cigarettes or your gas stove. Work will go on just fine with Tanya gone, and in fact less can be more and productivity will probably increase. Someone will pick up her work with hardly a notice. And if -<horror> Amazon went out of business tomorrow? The market would quickly adjust and you’d have plenty of ways to buy whatever it is you need. Within weeks they’d be no more than a distant memory, like Montgomery Ward or Sears and Roebucks.

Similarly, we overly focus on whatever good comes from religion and we mistakenly worry that it is indispensable and irreplaceable to meet our needs. We practically imagine that civilization would crumble without it. But it would not. We’d do just fine, and, as with Tanya gone, probably much better. As much as Amazon executives or church leaders would like you to believe that they alone can sustain you, they are not truly essential and irreplaceable. No one and nothing is, including religion.

So fret not for the loss of religion in the world. The planet will keep spinning and people will end up in a much better place when we finally escape from our delusions.